Tennessee has spent nearly half a billion dollars on farmers who have vaccinated their cattle against respiratory disease and other ailments in the last two years.
Republican Gov. Republican Gov.
Lee refused to follow other states’ lead and offer incentives to people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, even though Tennessee has one of the lowest vaccination rates.
Lee is not always against incentives to get vaccinations.
The Tennessee Herd Health Program was established in 2019 by Lee. Lee’s family ranch, Triple L Ranch, is a breeding facility for Polled Hereford cattle. According to records from Tennessee Agriculture Department, the state reimburses farmers up to $1500 for vaccinations. This amount amounts to $492,561 in the last two fiscal years.
Lee, who has so far avoided a serious Republican primary challenge for his 2022 reelection campaign, was accused of complacency during the pandemic. Tennessee’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is 39%, while it is over 49% nationwide for fully vaccinated. In the last three weeks, COVID hospitalizations in Tennessee have tripled and infections increased by more than fivefold.
Lee spoke at the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association annual convention on Friday. WBIR-TV reported that he didn’t believe incentives are very effective. He said, “I don’t believe that’s the role government has.” “The role government has is to make vaccines available to people and encourage them to get vaccines.”
Casey Black replied to a question regarding the contrast between incentivizing vaccination of cattle. She wrote that Tennesseeans have every incentive for the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s free and readily available in all corners of the state. A veterinarian may weigh in on safe raising cattle for human consumption. However, the state will continue providing information and access to COVID-19 vaccine information to Tennesseans.
Ohio’s Republican Governor. Mike DeWine, Ohio’s Republican Governor, announced the Vax-a Million lottery for the state on May 12. The prizes included $1 million and full college scholarship. Many other states followed his lead with their own incentives. These include custom-fitted trucks in West Virginia and annual passes to New Jersey’s state parks, as well as gift certificates for Arkansas hunting and fishing licences. President Joe Biden supported the call for incentives last week by encouraging state and local governments in New Jersey to use federal funds as they pay $100 to vaccines.
Lee, however, has not used any of these tactics and has maintained that the decision to vaccinate against COVID-19 was a personal one.
He said that Tennesseans should talk to their doctors, talk to clergy, and talk to family members to help them make an informed decision about getting the vaccine.
Lee received his COVID-19 vaccine but did not make it public, unlike when he got his flu shot.
More recently, Lee’s administration has been under fire after the state’s vaccination chief was terminated in what she has called an attempt to appease GOP legislators who were outraged over COVID-19 vaccination outreach to minors. One Republican lawmaker called a commercial promoting vaccinations for teenagers “reprehensible”, while others suggested that they might withdraw funding from the Health Department.
Dr. Michelle Fiscus has been vocal about what she thinks are the political motives for her firing, sharing her positive performance reviews with the press. Fiscus also called out the Health Department for halting outreach for all childhood vaccinations, not just COVID-19. Although the department has resumed outreach, it insists that it is only targeting parents.
Lee initially remained silent about the controversy. Then, at a recent news conference, Lee said he supports Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey and her decisions, although he said he doesn’t have a direct hand in them.
Dr. Jason Martin has been treating COVID-19 victims in Sumner County since the outbreak. He is now considering running for governor. He said that the Democrat wishes Lee would be “excited” about encouraging Tennesseans take a vaccine that is safe, effective and can save lives. It would help us beat COVID and keep our businesses open, thriving, and get our children back to school safely.
Lee’s spokesperson Black refused to answer a question regarding whether the governor’s family farm was paid money through the Herd Health program. However, records from the Agriculture Department don’t show Lee as a recipient.